For professionals in the business of serving food and drink, trained in the art of creating a successful dining experience, it may be difficult to stomach critiques from customers. After all, what do they know? Well, it turns out they know absolutely everything even if they know nothing.

Who knows best

According to Peter Nolan, chief brand officer for Roti Mediterranean Grill, “the customer who comes in twice a week, or 100 times a year, makes him or her an expert on the brand, and [it] would be foolish not to take his or her opinion into account.” Nolan firmly believes restaurateurs should listen to customers in order to “connect their insights into what the brand is trying to accomplish.”

So, sure, a customer may be commenting on an expertly prepared plate of food, but if it does not satisfy, then does it really matter if it is textbook perfect? The overarching goal of any eating establishment is to provide customers with something that will get them back in the door for a second, third, or hundredth time, so why not take a second to learn what that something may be.

Getting the dirt

Peter Nolan provides a list of tips to obtain valuable customer feedback:

  • Take the time to actually listen to your customers. Most importantly, hear what they have to say and respect their opinions, even if they are not a food professional.
  • Engage in casual conversations with customers. Be the most curious person in the room, and talk to anyone, and everyone, about the highs as well as lows of their experience.
  • Speak like your customers. If you want to understand customers’ insights, then you not only have to speak to them, but they must also speak to you. Using their language goes a long way to ensure this happens.
  • Know what you want to know. It is possible to obtain valuable information from a conversation initiated with no direction in mind, however asking about specifics will grant you access to much more understanding.
  • Don’t be afraid to poll. Not all customers will complete a formal survey, but some will, and those are a great way to incorporate customer feedback.

What matters most

Customers are the life force driving every successful business and, as Nolan explains, “integrating customer insights into your company’s innovation efforts can have a huge impact on a brand’s success.” By aligning vision and expertise with the desires of the customers, unforgettable dining experiences can abound.

At the end of the day, as Nolan puts it, “If you love and respect your customers and treat them well, they will come back again and again.”

How does your company find out what the customers are saying? Let us know @gosirvo.